Friday, April 6, 2012

Downton Abbey (Highclere Castle) Haunted

The British series “Downton Abbey” is filmed partially in Northern Hampshire at Highclere Castle. Highclere has been the home of the Carnarvon Family since 1679. It sits on a thousand acre estate in Berkshire, in between London and Bristol.

Highclere Castle
The castle’s history dates back to the Iron Age; the Bishops of Winchester owned the property for 800 years before it passed into secular hands. In 1679, the Herbert Family-- the Earls of Pembroke-- the ancestors of the Carnarvon Family acquired the property.

In the late 18th century and early 19th century many improvements were made to the estate. The old Elizabethan structure was transformed into a Georgian Mansion during this time. Yet even more significant changes were made to Highclere in the mid-19th century.

The third Earl of Carnarvon hired the famous architect, Sir Charles Barry to redesign the Georgian Mansion. The new castle resembles a variety of architectural styles with high Elizabethan, Gothic, and Italianate influences. Barry purposely designed the structure to look larger than it really is as the visitor approaches it.

The house is actually very large but today only the first floor is in use, which includes: an entrance hall, saloon, dining room, library, smoking room, music room, and several bedrooms. There are fifty bedrooms in the upper floors that are not in use.

The present Lady Carnarvon, who along with her husband the 6th Earl of Carnarvon own Highclere Castle. 

Lady Carnarvon has stated that because so many people have lived in the structure over the years, and because “terribly upsetting” events have happened in the building, it has resulted in the castle being haunted by more than one ghost. She states that some people see the ghosts and others do not.

Many of the staff have encountered the ghosts and the castle manager regularly hears phantom footsteps along the corridor while he is locking up. 

Lady Carnarvon states, "I saw the ghost of a footman he seemed unhappy." At one point this apparition followed her. After this, she had the castle blessed by Father Peter from Westminster Abbey.

He blessed the spot where I saw the ghost. Lady Carnarvon states she does not mention this spot for the staff would then not go near it.

A worker and his daughter also saw this ghostly footman. The dog that was with them on one side of a heavy door went "ballistic and barked crazily."

Lady Carnarvon believes this footman worked at the castle during the Victorian period. It is believed he committed suicide on the spot where she saw him. 

He was having an affair with a nursemaid who became pregnant. Sadly, the baby died, probably of cot death. The footman then killed himself.

Her husband, the Earl, states he has never seen this ghost but that he believes that some people are more attuned to this kind of activity.

Ironically, in an upcoming scene in the fictionalized series of “Downton Abbey” the actress, Joanne Froggatt, who plays “Anna” the highest-ranking maid in the household encounters a ghost in one bedroom.

Update--the above scene was never shown so it appears it fell victim to the cutting room floor.

Recently, Lady Carnarvon mentioned she can identify most of the ghosts that haunt the castle.

Here is an article where Lady Carnarvon discusses the ghosts at Highclere Castle.

Here is a video where Shirley Maclaine briefly talks about the castle being haunted.


CrazyCris said...

Fascinating (and spooky) tale!

I'd love to visit the place some day...

Virginia Lamkin said...

It is spooky--but like most castles in England the grounds are often open to the public for picnics, concerts Easter Egg hunts etc.--a friend of mine attended one of these events. I am so jealous--she said the grounds are very beautiful.